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Leer and Re­li­gion

It seems like a para­dox: leer (Span­ish for, “to read”) is a cousin of re­li­gion! But they are ac­tu­al­ly close­ly related–despite the too-com­mon be­lief that re­li­gion is thought­less!

Re­li­gion comes from the Latin, re- (“again”) com­bined with leg­ere (“to read.”) Thus, re­li­gion is lit­er­al­ly, read­ing the same thing again and again: a form of read­ing rit­u­al.

From the Latin leg­ere, the ‑g- dis­ap­pears over time and we get the Span­ish… leer, “to read.”

Thus the r‑l-g of re­li­gion maps to the l- of leer.

It’s fun­ny that, to­day, re­li­gion and read­ing are too of­ten seem as op­po­sites. For most of his­to­ry, the ed­u­cat­ed class­es were the priests and schol­ars; this is why the old Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties, for ex­am­ple, were pre­dom­i­nant­ly found­ed by re­li­gious groups!


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